|Cain had a brother as long as he was Abel|
“ Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion.” --Jude 11
To think of the Cain and Abel story, one can hardly ignore how fast jealousy and anger turned to fratricide and then lying and cover-up in the earliest generation of the human family. This tragedy continues to reverberate through human society with a worldwide homicide rate of 7 people out every 100,000 persons being intentionally murdered. But tragic as all of that is, the story of Cain and Abel is not primarily about the origins murder in the human family but rather the emergence of two kinds of people within the human race that are truly separated by their religion.
The background of the story (found in Genesis 4) centers on the worship of God as manifested in making sacrifices to Him. It was not a question of if Cain and Abel were going to do this but how they were going to do this. And you must know that even if you consider yourself a skeptic or even an agnostic, this speaks of your situation as well. Cain is the tiller of the soil and Abel is the keeper of sheep. Both know, presumably from their parents (Adam and Eve), that offerings are to be made to God and that offering is to be.
Cain makes as his offering the fruit of his labors as a farmer. A beautiful basket of his best produce, maybe even some choice flowers, is arranged in a basket and placed on the altar before God. It is a large basket, the best of the best, and yet it is rejected by the Lord. Meanwhile, his brother Abel presents the Lord with a jumbled assortment of raw meat from a lamb he has slaughtered for this sacrifice. And the Lord has regard for Abel’s offering.
At first blush the choice of Abel’s offering over Cain’s looks a bit arbitrary and unfair (which when parents act this way with their children predictably does stir up strife and resentments). After all, both men were offering the Lord the fruits of their respective occupations. But the Lord called Cain out on his sacrifice and told him to do right like his brother had done. What we can derive from this is God had already set a standard of blood sacrifice and Cain had determined he was going to do his own thing and thus be a law unto himself. In the words of Frank Sinatra, “I did it my way!”
And so before us in this story is in microcosm the only two religions that exist among men. To be sure men hold to all sorts of religious ideas or none at all, but they are merely differing manifestations of the ‘way of Cain’ which is to approach God on terms other than what He has prescribed. The other religion, the way of Abel, is to approach God on his terms. He accepted only blood sacrifices because they looked towards and pointed to His son Jesus who would become “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29). As Peter preached to those who had rejected Jesus and had Him crucified “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).”
|Christ a Savior of all nations|
This brings me to a final question: to which of these religions do you belong? The answer to that question makes all the difference in the world.